When Skeletons Dissolve – #365papers – 2017 – 16

#365papers for January 16, 2017

Walker, Miller, Bowser, Furbish, Gualda, 2013, Dissolution of ophiuroid ossicles on the shallow Antarctic shelf: Implications for the fossil record and ocean acidification: Palaios, v. 28, p. 317-332.

What’s it about?

Ophiuroids are casually known as ‘brittle stars,’ sea stars with long, flexible arms. This paper discusses the skeletal structure of these arms (the ‘ossicles’ which are actually not bone but calcite) and how these structures dissolve on the ocean floor after the animal has died.

Why does it matter?

The rate at which the skeletons degrade can affect our interpretations of abundances of such fossils in the rock record. As it happens, in this case, the skeletons dissolve relatively quickly, meaning that the fossil record might not retain evidence for these animals at all.

Why did I read this?

I was interested in this thinking it would be about how ophiuoids would fossilize, and as a potentially interesting paper to offer my students when we got to echinoderms. It is also an interesting paper regarding taphonomy – the study of everything that happens between when an organism dies and when it’s a fossil being collected by a paleontologist.

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